Jonathan Rochelle, B.S. ’85

Googling Success

By Jim Sciancalepore, M.A. ’93

Jonathan Rochelle at Google

It’s not easy to make the leap from a secure job at a big, established company to form a risky start-up. Nor is it easy for entrepreneurs to sell their successful businesses – with all the associated freedom and autonomy – and work for someone else.

Jonathan Rochelle has experienced both of these transitions, and his decisions have turned out very well.

After graduating from UAlbany in 1985, Rochelle was able to apply his computer-science degree to a position at financial giant J.P. Morgan. Rochelle would spend the next 15 years on Wall Street developing applications for the financial services sector – including solutions to help analysts visualize and access data from complex financial models.

Though he achieved success at J.P. Morgan, Rochelle had other ambitions.

“I always had ideas I wanted to develop…to create and launch products, something I really believed in,” explained Rochelle.

In 2001, he decided to leave the safety of his longtime job and co-found a start-up company. Or two companies, actually. One, consulting service ITK Solutions, provided technology services to banks and other big-name financial organizations. The second, a software company called 2Web Technologies, featured a signature product that could provide cloud-based access to complex spreadsheets, an extremely unique idea at the time.

Serving as CEO for 2Web, Rochelle guided the company to profitability – and attracted the attention of a quickly growing Internet company: Google.

Based on what Rochelle termed a “serendipitous contact” with Google, he and 2Web’s co-founder began discussing their solution and how it could be utilized by the Internet giant, which was looking to expand beyond its search-engine roots. In 2005, a purchase offer was made: Google wanted to acquire 2Web...and hire Rochelle, the company’s co-founder, and several of their colleagues.

This offer was certainly appealing to Rochelle from a business standpoint, but it also meant that he would be working for someone else again – after going out on his own just four years earlier. “It was a hard decision to sell, and a little scary to join such a large company,” said Rochelle. “But we had a good feeling about Google.”

Rochelle, once again, made the leap. He noted that he had been attracted to Google’s entrepreneurial environment, in which he could still be innovative and maintain some autonomy. He was also excited by the prospect of developing products on a greater scale.

“Supported by Google, our products could have a much bigger impact,” Rochelle added.

Incorporating 2Web technology, Rochelle and team would ultimately develop the solutions behind Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, and Google Drive – now used by tens of millions of people worldwide. In his current role as a director of Product Management at Google,
he is working to expand the company’s roster of cloud-based applications, with an emphasis on the education sector.

“You could say that I’m an evangelist for cloud computing,” he noted.

Years later, he still looks back fondly on his UAlbany education – citing the rigor of the university’s computer-science degree. “In terms of value, it was an awesome program,” he said. “I would never have been hired or successful at Google without it.”

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